Spot On: The Super Chiefs
Russell S. Baxter
Spot On: The Super Chiefs
By Brandon Fazzolari
Special to Pro Football Guru
Photos credit: Wikimedia Commons
It has been 50 years since the Kansas City Chiefs last played in the Super Bowl. To give some context as to how long ago that actually was, understand this: The Beatles had not yet broken up, HBO had not yet aired, Richard Nixon had not yet been humiliated and Adam Vinatieri had not yet been born. If the Chiefs can win two games starting this Sunday against the Houston Texans, they will finally make it back to the Promised Land. And watching Chiefs’ matriarch Norma Hunt hoist the AFC championship trophy named after her late husband, Lamar, on behalf of that wonderful fan base in Kansas City, would cause some to get a little bit misty. Let’s reminisce about the magical run of the 1969 K.C. Chiefs!
A Magical Season
The Chiefs were the most successful franchise in the AFL. They had won the league title in 1962 (as the Dallas Texans) and again in 1966 to go along with their three division crowns. Their head coach from day one, Hank Stram, was a terrific talent evaluator and a strict disciplinarian. The Chiefs put together a team comprised of star players from huge colleges, unknowns from obscure schools and NFL castoffs whose potential had yet to surface.
Indeed, the Chiefs were the most racially diverse team in all of professional football because coach Stram was only interested in having people who could help his ball club win football games. And win is what they did.
After starting the regular season by destroying their opponents by a combined score of 58-9, things were looking up. However, starting quarterback Len Dawson suffered a small ligament tear in his left knee and in the following game, backup Jacky Lee suffered a separated shoulder.
Enter second-year man Mike Livingston. He would guide Kansas City to four straight wins as he managed the offense while depending on a dominating defense. Of the 11 defensive starters, nine are in the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame and six are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – including Buck Buchanan, Bert Bell, Willie Lanier, Curley Culp, Emmitt Thomas and Johnny Robinson.
At season’s end, the Chiefs were defeated by the Oakland Raiders twice in the final four games. Hence, Oakland won the division by posting an impressive 12-1-1 record. The Chiefs made the playoffs with an 11-3 mark. In the first playoff game, Kansas City battled with the defending Super Bowl champion New York Jets. In a slugfest, Kansas City scored a fourth-quarter touchdown on a Len Dawson pass to Gloster Richardson giving the Chiefs a 13-6 victory.
It was on to Oakland for the last ever AFL championship game. With the Raiders driving midway through the third quarter, Thomas picked off Daryle Lamonica and was tackled at Kansas City's own six-yard line. On third-and-14, Dawson floated a pass from his own end zone to the amazing Otis Taylor for a huge gain setting up a Robert Holmes’ go-ahead touchdown run. The Chiefs prevailed and it was on to Super Bowl IV in New Orleans to face the NFL Champion Minnesota Vikings.
A Magical Game
Bud Grant’s Vikings featured a terrific defensive line comprised of: Gary Larsen, Jim Marshall and future Hall of Famers Carl Eller and Alan Page.
The week leading up to Super Bowl IV, the odds-makers made the Vikings a 13-point favorite. Simply put, the AFL was once again being ignored as a viable, competitive pro football league.
The day of the game was overcast and dreary. But nothing dampened the AFL champion Chiefs’ spirits on this day. And, when they entered their locker room, a special moment was waiting for them: stitched to each jersey was a patch commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the founding of the AFL. The players wore that patch with pride.
As for the game, the Vikings didn’t use any tricks. They were a tough team that simply ran the ball down the throats of their opponents. Thus, the Chiefs’ strategy would be to use their size and strength at the line. The Vikings all-world center Mick Tingelhoff was excellent but undersized at 235 pounds. Buchanan, on the other hand, stood 6’7’ and weighed 285 pounds while Culp chimed in at 265 pounds. So, the Chiefs were going to disrupt the Vikings run game by jamming the interior of the offensive line. It worked as Minnesota had only one solid drive the entire day.
On offense, coach Stram decided to double-team Eller and Page. It worked as Kansas City’s offense was able to move the ball effectively. They settled for three Jan Stenerud field goals and led 9-0 midway through the second quarter. After the third field goal, Vikings return man Charlie West fumbled the kickoff. All it took was three plays for Mike Garrett to find the end zone and give the Chiefs a stunning 16-0 halftime lead.
The Vikings were able to drive the field in the third quarter and put together a 69-yard drive that culminated with veteran Dave Osborn scoring from the four-yard line. Kansas City’s response didn’t take long – all one minute and 22 seconds to be exact. On first down from the Minnesota 46, the Vikings blitzed and Dawson gently swung a short pass to Taylor who broke the tackle from the cornerback. He raced down the field and stiff-armed safety Karl Kassulke at the 10 before going in for the score and a 23-7 lead. It’s one of those vintage Super Bowl plays engrained in many football fans memories.
The Chiefs intercepted Vikings’ quarterbacks three times, sacked them five times and knocked out starter Joe Kapp all in the fourth quarter. It was a convincing victory for Kansas City and the AFL and it happened 50 years ago this month!
Brandon Fazzolari (@spot_bills) is a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan and a Vegas sports reporter for Vegas the Network.